Study shows that teenage boys that self harm are six times more likely to die by suicide than teenage girls.
The research suggests that all boys who present at hospital having self harmed must be viewed as serious suicide risks.
The National Suicide Research Foundation study shows wide gender differences between boys and girls around self-harm and suicide, with boys who self-harm at a far higher risk of killing themselves later.
The study, of 15-17-year-olds, found that for every 16 boys that are hospitalised for self-harming, one will die by suicide later. In contrast, one in every 162 girls who present at hospital after self-harming will later kill themselves.
It found that the rate of hospitalisation for self-harm was twice as high among girls than boys, suggesting that girls are more likely to seek medical help than boys.
The study found that self-harming at home or in the community is far higher among teenage girls than boys.
The study also found that for every boy who dies by suicide, 146 will self-harm in the community without ever accessing hospital care. For every female who dies by suicide, 3,296 will self harm at home.
Post-doctoral psychology researcher, Dr Elaine McMahon, said the suicide ratios could suggest that boys are more prone to impulsive behaviour than girls, who can “internalise” more.
“Self-harming is rarer in boys and for those that do, we must recognise that they are at high risk of suicide and so we must target them in suicide prevention strategies,” she said.
Dr McMahon said there was a plethora of reasons why young people seek to self-harm. “It can be a cry for help, attention-seeking or a means of dealing with unbearable emotions,” she said.
The school survey also revealed that out of those who self-harmed without going to hospital, 59% of boys used cutting as did 58% of girls.
Of the self-harmers who were hospitalised, 25% of the boys used cutting compared to 14.6% of the girls. Overdose was the most common type of self harm among teenagers presenting at hospital with 72.8% of girls overdosing and 54.2% of boys.
The school survey, published in the Journal of Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, also showed that drug abuse and knowing a peer who self-harmed were strong factors in both boys and girls self-harming.
Boys who were bullied, felt anxious, had problems at school or who admitted to impulsivity, were more likely to self-harm.
Girls who self-harmed admitted to poor self-esteem, a family member self-harming and forced sexual activity.
Previous research from the NSRF showed that over two thirds of people who took their own lives in the past three years knew a family member or friend who had taken their own life or tried to. It found the majority of suicides happened within 12 months of experiencing a friend or family member taking their own lives.